Sunday, March 29, 2015

Signs of Spring Walk at Patapsco

Eight intrepid CAS members braved freezing temperatures for an
incongruously-named :Signs of Spring" walk on March 28, 2015.  The leader
had expected sunny skies, warm temperatures and singing birds, but got
precious few of these.  Nevertheless, a fun time was had by all: Doris,
Diane, Jimmy, Rosemary, Dave, Sandy, Debi and Bryan.  Best bird was a FOY
eastern phoebe, although it was not singing its eponymous song.  Good to
see one of our earliest returning migrants.  Among the other signs of
spring were budding spicebush, leaves of toothwort and spring beauty,
flowering Pennsylvania bittercress and skunk cabbage, and a flock of
opening day trout fishermen.  The leader went directly home after the walk
and took a long hot bath.

Bryan MacKay

Skunk Cabbage flower
photo by Debi MacKay

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Marsh Grass Restoration Day with Pickering Creek Audubon

What a fun day we had at Blackwater NWR today.   Students, teachers, and friends of Chesapeake College, and a few Chesapeake Audubon members joined together to learn about problems from sea level rise and land subsidence on the Eastern Shore from the staff of Pickering Creek Audubon Center.

After hiking a short ways on Wolf Pit Pond (where we spotted 2 Brown-headed Nuthatches), we returned to the Education Center to share our experiences and prepared to head out to plant Spartina alterniflora (Saltmarsh cordgrass).

Samantha Pitts, volunteer coordinator and teacher naturalist (left), and Jaime Bunting, education manager of Pickering Creek Audubon Center (right) guided us out in the field.  Mark Scallion, director of the center, also helped out.
Many trees have already died due to the encroaching salt water.
 This region has some of the highest rates of sea-level rise in the U.S.

A Spartina plug


After eating pizza, compliments of Pickering Creek, and completing a survey, two of us headed out on Wildlife Drive where about 50 White Pelicans were easily spotted.  Greater-yellowlegs, Northern Shovelers, Tundra Swan, Kestrel, Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Juncos, Mockingbird, Mallard, Purple Martin, and Tree Swallows were also seen.

This Osprey was perched on the platform that can be seen on the Friends of Blackwater
Osprey Cam.  A nest hasn't been started yet - stay tuned!

The new visitor's center is beautiful - be sure to visit them and view the exhibits, and browse the gift shop.

Pickering Creek has one more planting event scheduled for April 25th - please contact Samantha at to participate. Not only will you have fun -- but you will learn about our precious salt marshes and help combat sea level rise.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Woodcock Watch

Tim Houghton is Chesapeake Audubon's field trip director, and if you've ever been on one of his trips - you know he will find the bird for you!  Tonight we were in search of Timberdoodles, or the American Woodcock.  This is the prime time of year to hear them "peent" and watch them perform their mating display.  They are related to sandpipers, but prefer moist woods where they can eat their favorite food - worms.

We heard many of them in the thicket, one stayed in the mowed grass under the Home Depot parking light so everybody got a good luck.  Two flew just to relocate, and one flew very high, but the wind was brisk so it was not an ideal night to see their "skydance".

Tim remarked that you can see them display for the next few weeks.  Read more about this interesting bird and hear them "peent"  on Audubon's online bird field guide:

Tim teaching us about the Timberdoodles
American Woodcock (photo from Widipedi)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Bird Walk at Patterson Park

Only a few patches of snow remain in the park - welcome warmer weather!  Although the temperature at the start was only a bit above freezing, it was still a nice break from the last two months.  As I waited for the participants to arrive, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker flew high into a nearby tree, Juncos bounced around the base of another tree along with some Cardinals.  There were lots of Robins - some fought with their neighbors while others concentrated on securing their breakfast.

Here's one sign of spring in the community garden - blooming Witch Hazel - although I believe only non-natives bloom in the late winter.  In the summer, a House Wren family usually lives in this nestbox.
The Boat Lake still had some ice on it.  Canada Geese, Mallards, the resident Muscovy Ducks, and Ring-billed Gulls were all present.  There was one unlucky duck carcass frozen off the island.

Here we are discussing those odd Muscovy X Mallard oddities.
Red-winged Blackbirds were in attendance.  Males separate from the females.

We found one!  A lovely American Woodcock resting in the grasses.  Thank you Pat for lugging along your scope so we could examine it.  Unfortunately digiscoping with my cell phone did not turn out very well.

Here is the final bird list:
22 species

Canada Goose  4
Mallard  20
American Woodcock  1
Ring-billed Gull  15
Mourning Dove  3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  1
Blue Jay  2
American Crow  4
Fish Crow  1
Carolina Wren  2
American Robin  25
Northern Mockingbird  3
European Starling  4
Song Sparrow  5
Dark-eyed Junco  8
Northern Cardinal  2
Red-winged Blackbird  6
Common Grackle  25
House Finch  6
American Goldfinch  4
The next bird walk at Patterson Park is Saturday, March 28, let by Audubon staff.  Hope to see you there!